Posted: August 31, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Posted: August 31, 2014
Posted: August 31, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Posted: July 25, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Tasmania, already a favorite among Australian wine drinkers for its crisp Chardonnays, juicy Pinot Noirs and bright sparkling wines, has made little impact in the U.S. Most of the wineries are small, so there isn't much volume to go around, and until recently the often-tart styles have not been able to find a welcome.
Most Americans have no clue where Tassie is. Says George Galey of American Estate Wines, which has had wines from the island in its import portfolio for 20 years, "I actually used to carry a world map around with me and asked people to point out Tasmania. Restaurateurs and retailers usually pointed to Madagascar." Only off by about 5,800 miles. That's changing.
Posted: May 30, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Wine regions have shown vigilance in protecting their names. Years ago Champagne successfully campaigned to get people to quit applying their region's name to every sparkling wine, not just on labels but in descriptions. Chablis, Burgundy, Chianti and Tokaji did so too. Wine Australia wants the same courtesy for Orange.
Posted: May 22, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Château Tahbilk, the winery estate in central Victoria's Goulburn Valley, dates from the 19th century. The Australian property has been in the Purbrick family since 1925, known for Shiraz from old vines, some dating to 1860. Alister Purbrick, the fourth generation, has run the estate (now at 120,000 cases) since 1979. He brought a series of mini-verticals for me to taste in San Francisco.
Posted: May 15, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Healesville, a Yarra Valley town an hour's drive from Melbourne, attracted me not only for the wines, but also a visit to Innocent Bystander, where Phil Sexton makes Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the steely style currently in vogue. His Giant Steps label, which focuses on single-vineyard Yarra Valley wines, often rates among my leaders for Chardonnay.
More than the wines intrigued me. The modern building is an architectural award winner for its angled placement, green certifications and distinctive long swaths of wooden slats on the exterior. The 70,000-case cellar door (Aussie talk for tasting room) also bakes artisan bread, makes pizza, mongs cheese and pulls some of the better espresso in the neighborhood. Dipping into the lunch menu is rewarding.
Posted: May 13, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Gary Mills of Jamsheed makes modern-style wines that are polar opposite of what most Americans think of as Aussie Shiraz. He even calls them Syrah, to emphasize the difference. They have firm structure, open texture and a savory spiciness around pure fruit at the core. They display tremendous and distinctive personalities, even as alcohol levels seldom exceed 14 percent.
Posted: May 2, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Posted: April 28, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Australians were worried when Jackson Family, which seems to be all over the California wine world, added a historic vineyard in Clarendon Hills to its voluminous holdings in 2001. A big California wine company taking over 250 acres of vineyards that included some vines that had been producing enviable wines for more than 50 years? Seemed like heresy. The Jacksons renamed it Yangarra Estate and quietly went to work on improving things.
Then, in February 2012, Jackson Family won the bidding for the historic 450-acre Hickinbotham Vineyard, about 2 miles away. Rather than making its own wines, Hickinbotham had been producing grapes for Clarendon Hills' single-vineyard bottlings and material for Penfolds Grange and Eileen Hardy Shiraz. Heady stuff.
On my recent visit to Australia I checked in on some experiments at Yangarra and tasted through the debut vintage of Hickinbotham Clarendon Hills Estate wines, due to be released next year.
Posted: April 16, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Winemakers who keep their wineries spotless and hygienic would have been horrified by the sight that greeted me at Jauma, one of the stars of the natural wine movement in Australia. Flies buzzed about a motley assortment of upturned barrels and plastic tanks—any handy vessel large enough to contain a fermentation—the tops draped with old tablecloths and bedsheets.
Posted: April 9, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Torbreck, which ranks high on anyone's list of modern Australian wine producers, made headlines late last year when Dave Powell, who founded Torbreck in 1994, was summarily fired. Owner Pete Kight, the American entrepreneur who started CheckFree and also owns Quivira winery in Sonoma County, refused to renew Powell's contract.
A crossfire of accusations got ugly, lighting up the Australian press for several weeks. Powell has since been served with court papers invoking a non-compete clause in his contract. He cannot make any wine on his own in 2014, the vintage just wrapping up. The lawsuit goes to trial April 28 in Adelaide.
I recently visited Torbreck to taste the newest vintages, and then sat down with Powell to hear his plans for the future.
Posted: April 2, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
On my first day in Victoria, the cool-climate capital of Australia, I went up to Heathcote to see what Michel Chapoutier has been up to. Unfortunately, the Rhône-based vintner arrives to check on the 2014 harvest after I must move on to appointments in South Australia. With limited time, I figured to taste a few fermenting 2014s and perhaps a few older bottles, meet the rest of the crew and get back to Melbourne to check in at my hotel before it got to be too late.
To my pleasant surprise, Ron Laughton was there waiting with a nifty vertical of La Pleiade, produced in partnership with Chapoutier. Because the original name is a bit too close to a preexisting California wine, the U.S. label is Cluster M45, the scientific name for Pleiades, the constellation visible to both of the partners from their homes a hemisphere away from each other.
WineSpectator.com members can read my non-blind scores and tasting notes.
Posted: March 25, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Several Sydney insiders told me Sepia was the place to go for a great wine-pairing menu, so it was my first stop after arriving in Australia last week. Chef Martin Benn, once a protégé of Marco Pierre White in London, indulges a modernist bent since he left his post as chef de cuisine at Tetsuya's in 1999. His wife, Vicki Wild, once Tetsuya's personal assistant, brings warmth to the sharp-edged dining room on the ground floor of a Darling Harbour high-rise, and sommelier Rodney Setter has built up a broad and knowledgeably chosen international wine list of more than 1,100 selections, mostly current vintages although older wines, especially Bordeaux, Rhône and Australian Shiraz bottlings, scatter throughout.
Posted: February 28, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Posted: February 26, 2014 By Kasey Carpenter
Posted: February 21, 2014 By Augustus Weed
Posted: January 22, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Australian wine is gaining the attention of American wine drinkers again, significantly that of the gatekeepers: wine merchants, sommeliers and writers.
The reasons for Australia's slide in these parts from 2008 to 2012 probably involve some combination of their own overreach and a wine-drinking public's fascination with some other Next Big Thing. Whatever, every Aussie winemaker I've met trying to sell their wares in the U.S. this past year has spoken of doors opening that had been shut to them.
Posted: November 22, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
When I could not get to Australia for the Henschke winery's massive 40-vintage tasting of its signature wine earlier this year, the iconic Shiraz Hill of Grace, Stephen Henschke offered to bring a few of the older vintages to me when he came for the New York Wine Experience.
Here are my scores and tasting notes on the Henschke Hill of Grace 1973, 1986, 1990, 2001 and 2008.
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